Prince Philip: God to the Vanuatu tribes! Part1

The Vanuatu tribes are mourning the death of their ‘god’: the late Prince Philip (of all people). For years two villages on the Vanuatuan island of Tanna (in the Pacific) have revered the Duke as a god-like spiritual figure.

“The connection between the people on the island of Tanna and the English people is very strong… We are sending condolence messages to the Royal Family and the people of England,” said tribal leader Chief Yapa.

For the next few weeks, villagers will periodically meet to conduct rites for the duke, who is seen as a “recycled descendant of a very powerful spirit or god that lives on one of their mountains”, says anthropologist Kirk Huffman who has studied the tribes since the 1970s.

After the Prince’s death they conducted a ritualistic dance, held a procession, and displayed memorabilia in his honour. For this final act of mourning a great deal of wealth was on display: yams, kava plants, and pigs, a primary source of protein. often killed at ceremonial events, under the giant banyan trees. There were speeches remembering the Prince, but also discussion about a possible successor. At sunset the men drank kava.

For half a century, the Prince Philip Movement thrived in the villages of Yakel and Yaohnanen – at its height, it had several thousand followers, though numbers are thought to have dwindled to a few hundred.
The villagers live in Tanna’s jungles and continue to practise their ancestral customs. Wearing traditional dress is still common, and while they maintain strong links with society, money and modern technology such as mobile phones are seldom used within their community.

Though they live only several kilometres from the nearest airport, “they just made an active choice to disavow the modern world. It’s not a physical distance, it’s a metaphysical distance. They’re just 3,000 years away,” an observer remarked.

The villagers’ centuries-old “kastom”, or culture and way of life, sees Tanna as the origin of the world.

The aim is to promote peace – and this is where Prince Philip has played a central role. Over time, the villagers have come to believe he is one of them – the fulfilment of a prophecy of a tribesman who has “left the island, in his original spiritual form, to find a powerful wife overseas. Ruling the UK with the help of the Queen, he was trying to bring peace and respect for tradition to England and other parts of the world. If he was successful, then he could return to Tanna – though one thing preventing him, as they saw it: white people’s stupidity, jealousy, greed and perpetual fighting.”
(Tessa Wong, BBC News)
Tomorrow: What accounts for this unusual story. (I have edited it for length somewhat, but thought it made a change from police gunfire.)

Arkansas lawmakers override veto of anti-trans law

Arkansas’ Republican-controlled state legislature on Tuesday voted to override Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s veto of a bill barring physicians from providing gender-affirming procedures for transgender people under age 18. The vote came shortly after Hutchinson, a Republican, tried to block the legislation, calling it “vast government overreach.” The state House voted 71-24 to override the veto, and the Senate promptly followed with a 25-8 vote. Arkansas now will be the first state in the United States to prohibit doctors from providing such care as so-called cross-hormone therapy, a gender-affirming therapy that lets trans people make their physical appearance more consistent with their gender identity. LGBTQ supporters condemned the action by lawmakers, calling it harmful and vowing to challenge the law in court. [ABC News, CNN]

My comment: I have no horse in this race, but if a teenager regards him or herself as a member of the opposite sex, and if the parents approve of the intervention by a doctor, then it’s no damn business of busybody politicians, who are only too quick to spout religious doctrine and invoke individual rights in other contexts. Epicureans seek the happiness (preferably) of everyone, but this, being unachievable, at least are satisfied with the happiness of the greatest many.

Education

The British government has made a lot of noises about how important it is to teach kids media literacy. In 2019, for example, the education secretary announced guidance on teaching online safety in schools.

While that’s great in theory, “guidance” isn’t enough. You’ve got to put your money where your mouth is and actually invest in education. Ever since the Conservative-led coalition government took power in 2010, funding for education has ( of course!) declined significantly, and we’ve seen the largest cuts to school spending since the 1980s.

It’s no better in the US; underfunding there is so bad that about 94% of public school teachers report having to spend their own money on school supplies. While underfunding disproportionately hurts disadvantaged kids it has a ripple effect on society. There’s no problem in the world that can’t be improved by investing in education. Banning a few anti-vaxxers from Facebook may have short-term benefits but if we want to build healthy societies in the long-term we have to prioritise education and develop nerd immunity. (Arwa Mahdawi, The Guardian, 3/31/2012)

My comments: An actual education (as opposed to taking in the rudiments of the culture with no ability to think for oneself and critically analyze) is singularly lacking, if you see how so many people, armed with the vote, cannot spot a politician lying for his own benefit and the power of his party rather than for the citizen. How some politicians can stand for office is a puzzlement, but how they get elected tells you much about the calibre of the voter.

A medical prescription

Q: Doctor, I’ve heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true? A: Your heart is only good for so many beats, and that’s it… Don’t waste time on exercise. Everything wears out eventually. Speeding up the heart does not make you live longer; it is like saying you extend life of a car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take a nap. 
 
Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake? 
A: Oh no. Wine is made from fruit, Brandy from distilled wine.That means they take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way. Beer also made of grain. Bottoms up! 

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio? A: Well, if you have a body and you have fat, your ratio one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio two to one. 
Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program? A: Can’t think of single one, sorry. My philosophy: no pain…good!  

Q: Aren’t fried foods bad for you?  
A: YOU ARE NOT LISTENING! Food fried in vegetable oil? How is getting more vegetables bad for you? 

Q : Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the middle? A: No! When you exercise muscle, it gets bigger. You should only be doing sit-ups if you want bigger stomach. 

Q: Is chocolate bad for me? A: You crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best feel-good food around! 

Q: Is swimming good for your figure? A: If swimming is good for the figure, explain the whale to me.

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle? A: Hey! ‘Round’ is shape! 
 
Well… I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.  And remember: life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways – Chardonnay in one hand – chocolate in the other – body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming “WOO-HOO, what a ride!!”  

For those of you who watch what you eat, here’s the final word on nutrition and health. It’s a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies. 
 
1. The Japanese eat very little fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. 
 
2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. 
 
3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans. 
 
4. The Italians drink a lot of red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans… 
 
5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you.

The decline in the American birthrate, no. 2.

The pandemic may result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer babies born in the U.S. Lockdowns and fear kept young people from meeting and marrying, and the economic hardship discouraged many young couples from having kids.

Among the 32 states that had annual data available, there were about 95,000 fewer births in 2020 compared with the year prior, a decline of roughly 4.4 percent. Meanwhile, a Guttmacher Institute survey showed that as a result of the pandemic, 34 percent of American women have either put off plans to have children or reduced the number they expect to have. There may be a rebound when the pandemic ends, but research scientist Laura Lindberg said the shock and chronic uncertainty of the last year will linger. “Until people feel more confident about the economy and the state of the world,” she said, “concerns about having children are going to continue.”

Nearly 30 percent of the world’s countries have officially adopted pro-natalist policies to encourage their citizens to have kids. Hungary, which saw its fertility rate reach an all-time low of 1.23 in 2011, is spending 5 percent of GDP on policies such as free treatment at nationalized IVF clinics for women under 40, upfront loans to newlyweds that can be written off with each birth, and even a lifetime exclusion from income tax for moms with three or more kids.

Poland is giving moms about $140 per child per month; Russia is giving parents with two or more children one-off payments of about $8,100; and South Korea has spent $130 billion on a similar program since 2006. Evidence suggests, however, that these payments produce mostly short-term gains in fertility: Women have children earlier, but not more of them. In Alaska, where residents’ share of oil revenues is based on the number of kids they have, the long-term gains in fertility were negligible. “Single policy measures are unlikely to increase fertility,” said researchers from the Wittgenstein Centre, a Vienna-based group that studies population dynamics. High-quality public day care, research shows, is the only policy that leads to significant increases in the number of babies women choose to have.
(First published in The Week magazine).

My comment: We need enough up and coming younger people to help pay for the oldies, like myself. Otherwise I can only think that, faced with catastrophic climate change, a drop in population is a benefit to the planet.

The decline in the US birthrate, no. 1

Women are having fewer children than at any time on record. What are the implications?

The U.S.’s total fertility rate, or the number of babies each woman is expected to have during her lifetime, reached a record low of 1.705 births per woman (that’s 1 point 705!)in 2019, the latest year for which data is available. That year the number of babies born in the U.S. was 3.74 million — a 35-year low. The dramatic drop in births mirrors a worldwide trend. Britain, Canada, France, and Australia all had fertility rates below 1.9 in 2018 — below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 needed to sustain their populations. Some experts are calling this phenomenon “a demographic time bomb.”

In coming years, lower fertility rates could have profound economic consequences, with employers lacking sufficient workers to grow the economy. And with fewer young workers paying into Social Security and Medicare, these safety-net programs will be in trouble. In the early 1980s, the U.S. had about five workers providing the taxes to support each retired beneficiary. By 2019, the Social Security Administration says, that ratio had declined to 2.8 workers per retiree, and by 2035, it may drop to 2.2 workers per beneficiary.
Tomorrow: What is being done about the trend

Universities won’t grade spelling

University tutors are being told not to mark down work for spelling mistakes because insisting on correct English could be seen as “homogenous north European, white, male, elite”. The Times says several institutions are adopting “inclusive assessments” and Hull University says it will “challenge the status quo” by dropping the requirement for a high level of written and spoken English.

My comment: If you are ignorant of your own language then you are just plain ignorant. I have never heard of such a stupid, if not actually harmful, idea.
What are they thinking? And why are they picking on men, or being white? Are young women still being asked to spell correctly and conjugate properly?

Coming to live in America I had to adjust my spelling and vocabulary to the the American way. Why shouldn’t immigrants to Britain not learn English English, spelling and grammar. For one thing, it avoids misunderstandings. (Is it helpful to converse incomprehensibly?) Is this not potentially classist and racist? It certainly is a new shot fired the so-called “woke” ears.

Suggestion: grow up!

Boss pays ex-worker in pennies

A man has accused his former employer of being “childish” after he received his final payment of $915 in pennies. Andreas Flaten discovered the 90,000 coins at the bottom of his driveway, along with a final payslip and a parting message from the car workshop where he worked. The coins were covered in a greasy substance and Flaten is gradually cleaning them so he can bank them.  (The Week 26/3/21)

My comment: For pathetic pettiness this takes some beating. How would you react? Relief to have left the company? Well, yes, but the fact that this childish act has reached down to this obscure blog (and is probably all over Facebook et al) these are payback enough. Mr Flaten is too much of a gentleman to quote name of the company and its boss. I personally might be tempted.

A perversion of justice

Twenty years of jail time! This is what one Black man endured for stealing two (yes, 2) shirts!

My comment: Epicurus is known, among other things, for advocating moderation. He would be speechless with disbelief if told of such a sentence in his own day.

In the US the legal system is broken and is a disgrace. Can you imagine a White man being jailed for that amount of time for such petty theft?
Probably not.

Live forever?

A Russian academic has said that humans will one day be able to live forever and bring the dead back to life. “Death seems to be a permanent event, but there is no actual proof of its irreversibility,” said “transhumanist” Alexey Turchin. He added that there are four different paths to indefinite life so that we can “choose our own adventure”. One such path is to replace your organs with bioengineered ones, he claimed. (The Week Feb 26, 2021)

My comment: Help! Don’t go there! The idea is pointless if you are to continue living while all the people dear to you have long ago passed away. And keeping all of them alive indefinitely is a logistical and engineering challenge too huge to contemplate.

No, no. We have a finite life. Let’s make the best of what we’ve got.

Meanwhile, any takers for the concept of continued, bioengineered life? Just interested!

UFOs

John Ratcliffe, Donald Trump’s former intelligence director, recently said: “There are a lot more sightings of UFOs than have been made public.” He continued that in some of the cases “we don’t have good explanations” about what the UFOs might have been, adding: “I actually wanted to get this information out and declassify it before I left office.”. (The Week,26 Mar 2021).

My comment: Mr. Radcliffe and his brilliant scientific friends, admired around the world, also forgot to present the finding that the moon is composed solely of cream cheese. You can tell by the color. Once the full moon has changed into a crescent you can be assured that a lot of it has been eaten by aliens.

The disgusting situation with gun deaths

More than 12,000 Americans have been killed by guns this year alone.

As a long-ago foreigner I have never understood how so many people interpret the Constitution so strangely. Arming citizens (it is clear to me anyway) was in the context of membership of citizen militias, defending against foreign interference. Yes, the wording is careless, and the founders should have clarified that section, but they were smart people and I doubt they truly advocated that every Tom, Dick and Harry, every teenager and mentally deranged person should freely carry around guns, taking out their hate and frustration on the innocent, and doing more harm to fellow citizens than to any invader.

As the survivor of a gunshot from three yards away from a careless soldier (which almost literally parted my hair; guns give me nightmares ) I can only think that all this gun crime arises from a lack of imagination in the politicians who have refused to address it. Nowhere in the world should private gun ownership, especially automatic gun ownership be a right. Epicurus advocated moderation – lock up the guns and use them on firing ranges or for hunting, if you insist.

You might be being snooped upon

You may have a roommate you have never met. And even worse, they are nosy. They track what you watch on TV, they track when you leave the lights on in the living room, and they even track whenever you use a key fob to enter the house. This is the reality of living in a “smart home”: the house is always watching, always tracking, and sometimes it offers that data up to the highest bidder – or even to police.

This problem stems from the US government buying data from private companies, a practice still quite shrouded in secrecy, but relatively simple in a country like the US that has weak privacy laws: approach a third-party firm that sells databases of information on citizens, pay them for it and then use the data however deemed fit. The Washington Post recently reported – citing documents uncovered by researchers at the Georgetown school of law – that US Immigration and Customs Enforcement has been using this very playbook to buy up “hundreds of millions of phone, water, electricity and other utility records while pursuing immigration violations”.

“Modern surveillance” might evoke images of drones overhead, smartphones constantly pinging cell towers, and facial recognition deployed at political protests. All of these are indeed unchecked forms of 21st-century monitoring, often in uniquely concerning ways. Facial recognition, for instance, can be run continuously, from a distance, with minimal human involvement in the search and surveillance process. But the reporting on Ice’s use of utility records is a powerful reminder that it’s not just flashy gadgets that increasingly watch our every move; there’s also a large and ever-growing economy of data brokerage, in which companies and government agencies, law enforcement included, can buy up apparently fairly innocuous data on millions of Americans.

When it comes to police purchases of private data, privacy protection is completely absent. This is one of the oddities of trying to update 18th-century rights to address 21st-century threats. At the time of the country’s founding, the framers wrote about protecting things like our homes, our papers and other physical objects. Forward to today and these categories fail to capture most of our intimate data, including the ins and outs of our daily routine captured by, say, a nosy electronic roommate or a data broker.

Courts have been slow to update these legal categories to include computers and other electronic records. But while we now have the same protections for our laptops as our paper records, the matter gets much less clear in the cloud. The documents and data we access remotely every day can end up in a gray zone outside the clear protections afforded in our homes and offices.
When it comes to police purchases of private data, the protections are completely absent. Our financial, phone and countless other records held about us by third parties are generally open to police even without a warrant. This so-called “third-party doctrine” has come under more scrutiny in recent years, and there is some hope the courts will catch up with the changes in technology. Until they do, however, nearly all the data held about us by private companies remains completely exposed. Utility records might end up in the hands of law enforcement via a private company, or smart-home devices like thermostats and fridges could very well be sending off your data to be sold away.

While the recent Washington Post story focused on data brokerage and utility records, the smart-home phenomenon makes this problem of data sale and unchecked surveillance even worse. These gadgets are sold as flashy, affordable and convenient. But despite all that has been written about the speculative benefits of the so-called Internet of Things, these technologies are often insecure and may provide few to no details to consumers on how they’re protecting our data. Ring, Amazon’s home security system, has documented surveillance ties with law enforcement; that is but one example. The more smart devices are marketed in the absence of strong federal privacy protections, the more likely it’s not just about hackers half a world away controlling your home’s temperature – it’ll also be about arrests and deportations with the help of smart-home data.

All of which means American citizens and lawmakers must remember that protecting modern privacy is not just a question of facial recognition bans and legal restrictions on smartphone data collection. It’s also a matter of regulating the appliances and smart devices that watch people in their homes – and reforming the giant industry that profits off buying and selling those systems’ data. (Albert Fox Cahn and Justin Sherman)

Dog owners are wearing body cams

Dog walkers in a England have taken to wearing body cameras while taking their pets out for exercise amid growing fears over thefts. There has been a rise in dog snatching as demand for different breeds of dog skyrocketed during lockdown.

Amanda Knight, who runs a website for dog owners, told The Telegraph that she has been receiving emails from worried owners “two or three times a week”. The average price for puppies more than doubled between March and September 2020, according to the Pets4Homes website, while Dogs Lost, a missing pets website, reported a 170% rise in stolen dogs.

My comment:  without statistics I can only guess that the demand for puppies is led by young children, confined to the house, who think a puppy would be a welcome and cuddly distraction.

Well, yes, but who is going to walk the doggie? Children can nag all day, but the truth is that, after the initial excitement, it’s Dad who has to get up extra-early, walk the dog and maybe feed it before starting work.  Then all this phas to be repeated after a hard day’s work.  Mother sensibly keeps very quiet.

This isn’t social science – it comes from personal experience and from the heart!, (P.S: I loved our dogs, and they did make me exercise. But to the kids the dog was a nine day wonder, part of the moveable furniture).

Side-effects of the virus

The coronavirus pandemic has fuelled an “unprecedented exodus” of migrant workers that has caused the UK population to plummet and may result in “profound” damage to London’s economy, according to a new study.

The Economic Statistics Centre of Excellence says that analysis of estimated labour figures suggests more than half a million non-UK-born people left in the year from September 2019, contributing to a total 1.3 million drop in the population. 

The study findings – which contradict official data – indicate that the population of London alone has fallen by 700,000, equivalent to around 8%. If this decline continues, “the medium to long-term implications for London will be profound”, the study authors warn.

My comment: Not to mention the cost and availability of offices and homes, as increasingly more people migrate to the Continent.